L.A. Story: $150-Million Insurance Scam, Phantom Surgeon, Scarred Patients

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Dr. Munir Uwaydah

Los Angeles County prosecutors would like to ask orthopedic surgeon Munir Marwan Uwaydah about accusations he scammed insurance companies out of $150 million while having medically untrained assistants perform surgeries for him.

He is currently awaiting extradition from Germany, according to the district attorney’s office, which announced two criminal grand jury indictments Tuesday, containing 132 felony counts, against Uwaydah and 14 associates. The start of the five-year investigation followed by two years an investigation of the murder of Uwaydah’s ex-girlfriend.

Kelly Soo Park, Uwaydah’s office manager, was accused of killing 21-year-old former model Juliana Redding in her Santa Monica home in 2008. There was much murmuring in the press about her being Uwaydah’s boyfriend and possessing James Bond skills. Redding was strangled five days after her father broke off discussions with Uwaydah to start a pharmaceutical business together.

The California Attorney General's Office and the Medical Board of California took an interest in Uwaydah during the Redding investigation and raised questions about incidents in 2004 and 2005 involving the doctor’s absence during surgical procedures, and shoddy record keeping. There was also mention of a 2006 fraud conviction (pdf) for picking up a CT scanner in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2001 but not paying the $963,000 purchase price.  

In October, 2010, after negotiations, Uwaydah’s medical license was revoked, but immediately restored while he was placed on two-year’s probation. Uwaydah could practice medicine during the probation, but couldn’t supervise physician assistants. He was supposed to take ethics and record-keeping classes within 60 days. There was no admission of culpability.

Park was acquitted in 2013. She sued the city of Santa Monica in 2014 and was one of the 15 people indicted this week. 

The 57-count indictment (smaller of the two) accuses Uwaydah and 10 other defendants of insurance fraud, aggravated mayhem and “capping or unlawful client referrals.” The doctor, the physician’s assistant and three others are charged with three extra counts of aggravated mayhem involving patients.

Those patients would be the 21 people allegedly operated on by the physician’s assistant—without Uwaydah in the room—while they were under general anesthesia. According to the district attorney, “All 21 patients sustained lasting scars and many required additional surgeries and suffered physical and psychological trauma.”

The 75-count indictment accuses Uwaydah’s attorney and three others as co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise run by the doctor. “Charges include conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, money laundering, illegal patient referrals and filing false tax returns.”

Eleven co-defendants had not-guilty pleas entered on their behalf Tuesday in L.A. Superior Court. The Los Angeles Times said Park was held on $18.5-million bail.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Doctor Charged in $150 Million Insurance Scam (by Brian Melley, Associated Press)

Patients Scarred, Insurance Firms Duped in Massive Scam, L.A. County Prosecutors Say (by Richard Winton and Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times)

15 Indicted in $150 Million Insurance Fraud, Patient Scam Conspiracy (Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office)

Munir Uwaydah, M.D. Stipulates to Medical License Revocation, Stayed and Probation (Goldman, Magdalin & Krikes, LLP)

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